On the Friday, June 14 edition of Georgia Today: House Speaker Jon Burns reaffirms his commitment to protecting access to in-vitro fertilization; Macon opens a center for people with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities; and who benefits from AI is an important question. So is: who does it leave behind? 

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, June 14. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, House Speaker Jon Burns reaffirms his commitment to protecting access to in vitro fertilization. Macon opens a center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And who benefits from AI is an important question, and so is, who does it leave behind? These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: One of Georgia's top-ranking Republicans is reaffirming his commitment to protecting in vitro fertilization. House Speaker Jon Burns says, quote, "there should be no question that in-vitro fertilization will remain available in Georgia." He calls IVF "a life-changing blessing." His remarks come days after the Southern Baptist Convention approved a non-binding resolution that cautioned couples about using IVF. The resolution lamented that the creation of surplus embryos often results in the, quote, "destruction of embryonic human life." Also this week, Senate Republicans in Washington blocked legislation that would make access to IVF and other fertility treatments a right. The Georgia House passed a resolution last session supporting IVF, citing more than 2,900 pregnancies in Georgia in 2021 using the procedure.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the 100 Black Men of America conference in Atlanta today. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.

Sarah Kallis: Harris brought her economic opportunity for all tour to Atlanta for a second time. She told the crowd about venture capital opportunities for small, minority-owned businesses and home ownership. Harris also spoke about policies proposed and implemented by the Biden administration, aiming to close the racial wealth gap. 

Kamala Harris: There are obstacles built into the system that have to be addressed to give people the opportunity — and it's not about a handout. It's about saying give people the opportunity to compete. Give hardworking people the opportunity to get ahead and not just get by.

Sarah Kallis: The vice president is expected to be in Atlanta again early next week to talk about gun violence. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis in Atlanta.

Quavo poses for a portrait at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Quavo poses for a portrait at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Credit: AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough

Story 3:

Peter Biello: Worth noting that Vice President Harris will be appearing next week with rapper Quavo. Harris and Quavo have worked together on the issue of gun violence before. The White House hosted a conversation with Harris and Quavo last September on what the White House describes as common sense gun safety policies. Quavo was a member of the award-winning trio Migos with his nephew Takeoff, who was fatally shot in 2022. Migos disbanded after Takeoff's death. Harris and Quavo will be meeting on what would have been Takeoff's 30th birthday.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: Experts believe they found the wreckage of a private plane in Vermont's Lake Champlain that disappeared 53 years ago, in 1971. A plane carrying two crew members and three employees of Georgia development company Cozens Property disappeared after departing the Burlington, Vt., airport for Providence, R.I. More than a dozen searches failed to find the plane until an underwater search team last month found the wreckage of a jet with the same custom paint scheme near where the plane disappeared.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: Macon will be opening a one-of-a-kind center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities next year. GPB's Sofi Gratas has more on how that will help those often overlooked in medical care.

Tamika Woods: All right, y'all ready?

Sofi Gratas: Facing the construction site, Tamika Woods signs her name with a marker onto the final structural beam that will hold up the new center.

Tamika Woods: I think, what? 14, 24.

Sofi Gratas: Woods helps run an advocacy group for people with disabilities, and says the facility will offer more choice for medical care.

Tamika Woods: And to be a part of that is very special.

Sofi Gratas: Because Woods and others with IDD don't have many options in where they can go for things like dentistry, psychiatry and even physical therapy. But here, physicians will work exclusively with them on all of those things. The over $10 million project is being funded by the state, and will also accept people with IDD from emergency rooms in Georgia, who are often without proper care or in crisis. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Macon.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: The Port of Savannah saw a 22% jump in the number of containers it handled last month. That amounts to nearly half a million units. The Georgia Ports Authority credits new customers in a strengthening retail market. May was also a good month for the Appalachian Regional Port in Northwest Georgia. The inland terminal moved a record 3,600 containers last month.



Story 7:

Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp toured the Korean Demilitarized Zone yesterday. The visit came as part of his sixth overseas trip since taking office in 2019, to focus on economic partnerships for Georgia. Planned visits include meetings with Korean businesses that operate in Georgia, including LG Group, SK Group, Hanwha Qcells and CJ Foodville. The AP reports the trip included a reception in conjunction with Hyundai Motor Group, but no meetings with political or cultural leaders.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: Several communities across Georgia are getting millions of dollars in grants to create more housing for workers. Gov. Brian Kemp announced more than $10 million in grants this week from the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative. Most of the money awarded is aimed at improving infrastructure where homes will be built. For example, the city of Gainesville is getting $2.5 million for drainage infrastructure that will support the construction of both single-family homes and rental units. The other communities receiving funds are the cities of Blackshear, Reidsville and Sylvester and the Development Authority of Bullitt County.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: The state of Georgia's net tax collections in May dropped about 1% compared to last fiscal year. That's a total of nearly $2.5 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue is also down about 1%. But when accounting for the difference made by the suspension of the gas tax, net tax revenue collection was down more than 4%.

OpenAI logo displayed on a phone screen and ChatGPT website displayed on a laptop screen are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on December 5, 2022. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Story 10:

Peter Biello: Artificial intelligence is changing our lives, and the industry continues to develop at a rapid pace. But with that comes the question about who AI might help the most and how it will disrupt different industries. Van Jones is an Emmy Award-winning news producer, a three-time New York Times bestselling author, and the founder of Dream Machine Innovation Lab. This weekend, he's hosting Dream Machine's AI Academy, a free conference focused on teaching Black and brown students and business professionals about AI technology. Van Jones spoke with GPB's Morning Edition host Pamela Kirkland.

Pamela Kirkland: So tell me about Dream Machine, first. You wanted to build an organization that would bring people together for good. And I've heard you talk about this intention of making Wakanda real? What does that mean?

Van Jones: Well, it just means that technology is changing really rapidly, and I think a lot of people are getting scared, and — Yeah, even myself; like, I heard about, you know, ChatGPT and all I heard is "The kids are cheating" and I have two teenage boys. I was getting at 'em, like "Don't y'all be cheating!" And then I learned that there's a lot — here is a whole world of creativity and possibility and opportunity. And so I said, well, that sounds more like Wakanda than, you know, some kind of nightmare scenario. What if African American kids and other kids who have usually been overlooked use these tools for good? What if they use these tools to create businesses and create art and — and solve problems? This could be a real benefit. And I wasn't hearing that discussed. And so at Dream Machine, we're always looking for ways to bring people together. And so we said, "What if we got the AI people and just regular old Black folk together? What would happen?" And it's turned into a movement called "Make Wakanda Real." And it's me, it's will.i.am, it's Tiffany Haddish, it's Ashton Kutcher. It's a lot of people you may have heard of, a lot of people you haven't heard of yet coming together.

Pamela Kirkland: And so there's been a lot of conversation around AI and as you've mentioned, you know, some negative things, some how it will negatively impact Black and brown communities. And it seems like you're trying to combat that, or at least show that there are some other possibilities when it comes to this sector.

Van Jones: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, we don't want racist robots. Obviously, we don't want all our jobs wiped out. And yet, we're the most resilient, creative culture on planet Earth. There's no we there's no peer. And you've got to give us these super creative tools. I think it could work out very, very well. Listen, when they brought out the calculator, it — it put a lot of statisticians out of work, but it also opened up the world of math to everybody. When they brought in the word processor, it put a lot of typists out of work. But it also opened up the world of — of literature, of writing, of editing to everybody. Now we take it for granted. AI tools can do a similar thing, and we'll do a similar thing. And so I think we've got to embrace it. And that's why we're doing this free workshop in Atlanta. You can go to DreamMachine.org to learn more about it. But, you know, we basically ripped off school days, and that's a theme. And we're doing a whole AI Academy: free, hands-on, not abstract, not scary. Helping people understand: How can I use this to make my barber shop make more money? How can I use this to create my business plan in 10 seconds with minimal input? How can I use this to make my life better? And I'm excited about it.

Pamela Kirkland: Yeah, and it is tech week here in Atlanta. What made you want to do that here? To have the first-ever AI Academy here in Atlanta, in this city.

Van Jones: Well, because, you know, Atlanta is is is already on its way to being Wakanda in that — you know, not that you ever have a perfect city. You always have problems. But just the, the economy of Atlanta by itself is bigger than the economy of all the rest of Georgia, plus Mississippi, plus Alabama. Just one city. And when you think about the incredible economic achievement of the Black community there, what if you could make that AI's superpower? What if you could superpower a black city? So I want for Atlanta to be the center of AI innovation for Black folk. And to do that, we're coming in — that we could easily — People are saying, "You guys are crazy. You can charge $2,000, $3,000 for this." And we're like, "no, no, no, we're making an investment for free." We decided you can come for free because we know it's going to pay off in the billions of dollars going forward.

Pamela Kirkland: And can you share a bit about your own personal journey? You're known well for your work in social justice, for your work in prison reform. How do you think your background influenced your approach to tacking this approach to AI?

Van Jones: Well, then people may not remember. But, you know, 10 years ago, when Prince was alive. We worked together on something called "Yes, We Code." And this is back when just trying to get our young people coding at all, let alone the AI and quantum computing and biotech. Just basic computer coding was a big struggle. And I worked with Prince on that. And it — it opened my eyes to not just the disparities but the opportunities in technology. And so this is really an extension of that. But what's so amazing is: Don't let folks psych you out. They want to scare our children if we — before they even have a chance to dream. Don't let anybody psych you out. 99% of Black people don't know anything about AI. That's true. 99% of us know nothing about AI. And guess what? 99% of white people don't know anything about AI, either. It is even-steven; this is the only equality you are ever going to see in life. We're all equally ignorant about these apps. And so if you get ChatGPT, I'm gonna give you three names right now. If you get ChatGPT — and I'm not an investor, I don't any of these companies, I'm just saying, if you get ChatGPT on your phone or your laptop and just play with it for an hour, you'll be amazed and you'll figure out this stuff I can do. You can go on YouTube and learn more about it. If you get Midjourney, you can just type some words and get a beautiful picture. It looks like the Mona Lisa just based off of the crazy ideas in your mind. There are YouTube videos on that. And then lastly, if you're a musician, there's an app called Suno.ai — S-U-N-O dot A-I — where you can just tell it to make a song with no skill, no musical nothing and it will make a song for you in 30 seconds that is brilliant. I mean recorded sounds, the drums, the harmonies. And so this — the you going to give the most creative people in the world tools this creative? Some of them for free? Get back, stand back, stand back, watch what we do. Watch what we do.

Pamela Kirkland: And I've also heard you talk about some of these technologies. Obviously they're disruptors in a number of different ways. But the responsibility that some of these companies have in being disruptors to disrupt for a purpose, how are you going about pushing that?

Van Jones: Well, you know, yes, we're doing a hands on workshops, but we're also engaging these companies directly. In fact and we're going to have the head of responsible AI from Amazon in the building. It's a sister. She works with AWS. We're gonna have, you know, other people from the industry itself in the building. And what we're saying to them is, "Great, you guys have the power to disrupt everything. You know, you could you could unleash these bots, and you can do whatever you want to do. But what is your purpose?" We have a purpose. We want to disrupt poverty. We want to disrupt prisons. We want to disrupt pollution. We want to disrupt polarization. In our community? We have purpose. We don't have the power to do it all by ourselves, but we have the purpose. So what if we take our purpose and put it with your power? Now you're actually using these — these AI companies AI platforms for a good reason. Will they all do it? No. Will some of them be horrible and evil? Undoubtedly. But some will listen. And all we need is a little bit. You know, we — we get a little bit, we can do a whole lot. And so that's — that's the political or policy or ... The organizing to get these companies to act right will be improved when more of us know what the techn— technologies are in the first place.

Pamela Kirkland: Yeah. And we're talking about the future and disruption: We do have a presidential election on the horizon in just a few months. What's your read on what's happening right now and how Georgia is going to factor into all of this?

Van Jones: Look, I mean, Georgia's going to be critical. I mean, you know, it's — Georgia could decide it. And I think it's important for people to pay attention. Obviously, we're a 501(c)3, so I can't tell anybody who to vote for or what to think, but I think, people are mainly going to be make a decision whether to vote at all. I know some people feel so discouraged, but, to me that doesn't make any sense, because when you sit on your hands and you don't take care of a problem, it doesn't get better, it gets worse. And so, I think — I think Georgia is very important. But also, as I said, Atlanta itself is so important, as a cultural Mecca, you know, we have the colleges there. We have half of Hollywood is there now. We have, you know, the airport. There's so much happening there. And, five, 10 years from now, Atlanta could be an even more powerful city. If the people — if especially if the young people and the grassroots leadership start using these tools to solve, to solve our own problems, regardless of who wins the presidency. Whoever wins, we're still going to have 95% the same problems. And so how can we come together? How can we use new technology? It may be some of these problems we've been waiting for government to solve, we may be able to solve better and quicker ourselves if we use these new tools.

Peter Biello: Van Jones, speaking with GPB's Morning Edition host Pamela Kirkland. Dream Machine's AI Academy takes place tomorrow at the Loudermilk Conference Center in Atlanta. For more information, visit DreamMachine.org.


Story 11:

Peter Biello: In a new one-act opera, residents in Forsyth County have a problem. Puddles are inexplicably popping up all over town. A cast of characters gets together to solve the mystery, titled Forsyth County is Flooding With The Joy of Lake Lanier. Atlanta Opera Company is showcasing the dark comedy that reflects on two events in Georgia history: the forced exile of Black residents from Forsyth County in 1912 and the decades-later creation of Lake Lanier. Its creators, Dr. Marcus Norris, who wrote the music and lyrics, and Adamma Ebo, who wrote the book and story, spoke with GPB's Devon Zwald.

Devon Zwald: So I want to start with some of the characters. There's Church Jenkins, a private detective, and Odella Cyrus, a gray witch. How did they react when the puddles start appearing?

Adamma Ebo: I think a little differently. I think that Church reacts as — as someone who thinks there's a logical explanation and a very methodical way to solve or investigate this issue. And Odelia believes that there's something clairvoyant happening, there's something spiritual happening that it's not — it's not going to, you know, a gumshoe detective isn't going to be able to use his usual means to in order to figure this out.

Devon Zwald: Are the characters fictional or are they based on real people?

Adamma Ebo: Highly fictional, I would say. And you know, a lot of the temperament of the characters and the way that they speak are inspired by real people.

Devon Zwald: How do you weave the real historic events into the storylines of the characters?

Adamma Ebo: Essentially by having the characters sort of fall into the history in a very specific way. They don't readily go to history and and past social happenings as — as a route, and they sort of stumble upon it.

Devon Zwald: So it kind of finds — finds them, maybe?

Adamma Ebo: It finds them. It's sort of unavoidable.

Devon Zwald: Can you talk a little bit about the role of the supernatural in the opera?

Dr. Marcus Norris: I was thinking about it like I always wanted you to be like, "Could it be? Or could it not be?" And in the way Adamma put these two opposite characters in the same place — Like, one is, like, as spiritual as you can get. She really knows to her core. She speaks to, spirits. And then, you know, hardcore science, atheist, logical. And then they have to solve this together. And I kind of wanted to make the audience wrestle with that, like, "is this?" And like, you're kind of not sure. For most of the time, like, "is this spiritual? Is this supernatural?" And I hope, I hope people kind of go on that journey for themselves.

Adamma Ebo: Yeah, I mean, I, I'm Southern, I identify as mostly Christian. And so I believe in spirituality deeply. And — and so I wanted there to be a, you know, a supernatural or a spiritual element to this because it feels like — it feels like the ultimate equalizer. No matter what happens on this plane or on this Earth, the higher-ups are going to have the last word. And that felt very appropriate for — for this story and for the the point that we're making, what we're trying to explore.

Devon Zwald: What is the point that you're making?

Adamma Ebo: No deed, good or bad, goes unpunished.

Devon Zwald: The Atlanta Opera commissioned Forsyth County is Flooding because you won the 2022 96-hour opera competition for Go On With That Wind, which is an eight-minute opera that you wrote and rehearsed in about four days, but you changed the commission to Forsyth County is Flooding. Why did you decide to make that change?

Adamma Ebo: We wrote Go On With That Wind to be 8 to 10 minutes. And we we truly felt like we told the most compelling and interesting story within that time frame. I was like, "we made the point." It was short and sweet and to the point, and we just we didn't want to sort of over overextend our welcome. And that combined with the fact that Marcus and I both have this creative bug where we constantly want to be creating something new. We were like, "we got commissioned to write a full length opera." Let's, like, really sit down and cultivate a story that we feel like speaks to us for, for something of that — of that length and magnitude. And I'm glad we — I'm glad we did it.

Devon Zwald: So I did want to ask you about comedy, because it's a dark comedy. So how does that show up in this? And does it have an effect on the tone of the opera?

Dr. Marcus Norris: It's on every level. And — and I think this affects the experience because I think, like, you know, a lot of people don't want something that's just heavy, heavy all the time. Or something that's just like preaching to them off the gate. ... I've been like telling people, like, I knew we wanted to make something that is like, you can just have a good time, like you can just enjoy yourself. You don't have to suffer through it or you don't have to like, "oh my God!", you know what I mean? That I think happens with a lot of, like, high art.

Adamma Ebo: Yeah, we're definitely, like, "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" ideology with our ... with a lot of the things that we create.

Devon Zwald: Is there anything that you want people to take away from this when they go see it?

Dr. Marcus Norris: You can talk the way you normally talk. You can be yourself and still make whatever you want to make. There's no code switching with this opera. It's like: All the lyrics, like, people very much talk the way people talk where I'm from. And so my hope would be that people, like young people could see this and be like, you know, I can talk the way I talk and I can make opera, I can make TV, I can make anything I want to make. And — and I don't have to, like, switch it up. I can bring my whole self to everything I do.

Adamma Ebo: Yeah, I agree with that. I would say it's — it's something that, like, my parents definitely drilled into me and raised me to believe, but: Question everything because, you know, recorded history doesn't necessarily mean fact. Dive and dig as deep as you possibly can to find out the truth.

Peter Biello: That's Adamma Ebo and Marcus Norris, the creators of Forsyth County Is Flooding. It premieres tomorrow night at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College.

(Photo Courtesy of Stefano Ferrandoz via stock.xchng.)

Story 12:

Peter Biello: In sports, despite being limited to eight minutes of play in the first half due to three fouls, Rhyne Howard put up 26 points in last night's matchup between the Atlanta Dream and the Indiana Fever. But the team couldn't match the scoring pace and the Dream lost 91 to 84. Caitlin Clark added only 7 points for the fever. In baseball, the Atlanta Braves return home to Truist Park tonight after a tough run on the road. They'll take on the Tampa Bay Rays for the first of a three-game series tonight. Chris Sale is scheduled to get the start for the Braves. And Georgia Bulldogs third baseman and outfielder Charlie Condon has been awarded the top honor in college baseball: the 2024 Dick Howser Trophy. The announcement came yesterday on the MLB Network, site of the College World Series. The Marietta native currently leads the NCAA with a .443 batting average and a record 37 homers. Condon was also named this Week Player of the Year by Baseball America, and is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and the Bobby Ragan Slugger of the Year.


Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit GPB.org/news. And if you haven't yet subscribed to this podcast, make sure you take a moment and do it now. We'll be back on Monday with all the top news from Georgia. And if you've got feedback, we would love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next week.


For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news

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